Friday, May 29, 2015
Authors Posts by Nikhil Daljeet

Nikhil Daljeet

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Nikhil has been writing for MLHS since the site launched in 2008. He misses talking about Mats Sundin and is currently entrenched in enemy territory (Boston) pursuing a doctoral degree. Contact Nikhil here: [email protected]

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A decrepit and depleted Devils squad trotting into the Air Canada Centre with the Leafs on a roll? A classic trap game that ended in a 5-3 loss for the home team.

The state of the Devils coming into this one was almost comical. Elias, Jagr and Larsson injured. Schneider set to play 80 games this season. Dainus Zubrus mistakenly laying the body on Damien Brunner. It’s likely these thoughts were also humouring the de facto top line in Toronto as Kessel, Bozak and JVR never truly got into this game.

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PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 27: Head Coach Randy Carlyle and Brendan Shanahan, President of the Toronto Maple Leafs speak prior to the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 27, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Most fans had Randy Carlyle fired before the 2013-14 season ended.  He wasn’t.

Instead, Toronto’s front office opted to extend the former Norris trophy winner.  Quotables citing Carlyle’s experience and Stanley Cup-winning pedigree have been bandied about as support.  Even his detractors are unlikely to admit his retention immediately spells the end of this year’s playoff hopes.  But a failure to significantly overhaul his defensive system of the past two seasons is likely to do exactly that.

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Photo: NHLI via Getty Images

Anyone following this team in earnest over the last two seasons is familiar with a number of this young group’s faults. One is their propensity to elevate their game to a different level – at the very last possible moment. The shortened season was better in this respect, as a team that the hockey world thought little of went out every night with the goal of proving themselves. This culminated in a showdown with the Bruins in the playoffs, wherein the team’s speed, determination, and some miraculous goaltending propelled the series to seven games.

Tyler Bozak is Toronto’s first line center.  For now and the foreseeable future, Bozak has a stranglehold on a very enviable position between James Van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel.  While Bozak has occupied a similar spot in the past, Nazem Kadri’s emergence last season and Bozak’s own untimely injuries had set the stage for a tantalizing possibility – the seemingly natural progression of Toronto’s most talented center (Kadri) into a role on the first line.

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TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 5: Jonathan Bernier #45 of the Toronto Maple Leafs turns a shot away against the Dallas Stars during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on December 5, 2013 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Toronto welcomed the HBO crew with a 3-2 overtime victory at the Air Canada Centre.  They came out with the appropriate amount of desperation and effort for a team that has been stumbling significantly.

With last night’s loss against Nashville, Randy Carlyle’s stint behind Toronto’s bench has spanned more than a season’s worth of games. Recently, there has been much discussion surrounding this team’s identity.  Clearly, the current Maple Leafs are  one of the best quick-attack squads in the league.  They have a collection of highly skilled players, good special teams, and the support of some fantastic goaltending.  Yet naysayers are prevalent in the Toronto hockey scene.  Their criticism has often focused on the supposedly debilitating shot differential that has characterized this iteration of the Leafs.  This is a team that has seen success under Carlyle in spite of the shot differential statistics.  Ironically, it wasn’t so long ago that this franchise bucked this category of questionably predictive statistics from the other side of the spectrum.

Photo: Getty Images via NHL.com

The Leafs will return to the ice after what has seemed like an eternity.  The JVR-at-center experiment will make its debut against the Devils tonight while Smithson and Fraser will draw into the lineup.  The former is a move of necessity while the latter are indications of Carlyle reinforcing his desired style of game.

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Phil Kessel
Photo: GETTY IMAGES/MapleLeafs.com

The Maple Leafs started their western road trip on the right note, putting away the Oilers 4-0. It was an impeccable road game, and possibly Toronto’s best work over sixty minutes this season. James Reimer tightened his grip on the starter’s role with a shutout and Phil Kessel moved into a tie for second in league scoring with four points.

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Photo: Canadian Press Files - Postmedia News

Tonight, David Clarkson will make his debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Many in Leafs Nation are excited about the prospect of a power forward like Clarkson entering the lineup. Rightly so: he hits, he fights, he cycles and he can put the puck in the net.

No, winning the first two games of the season does not make the Leafs contenders for the Stanley Cup.  You would think that goes without saying.  Yet apparently the ever-astute media is under the impression that Leafs fans have been overcome with cup delusions, as they have already felt the need to trot out journalistic diarrhea to talk us down from our delirium. But, we crazy Toronto fans are fairly certain that we have a young, developing team with many high-end pieces that suggest the franchise will continue on their upward trajectory in the near future.

It’s October and hockey is back. With it comes the unparalleled rush of seeing your team beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-3. Unfortunately, it also comes hand in hand with whistle-happy refs, clueless CBC commentators and a surplus of scraps. With their speed, pugilism and offensive prowess on full display, this looks like it will be another exciting year for the Maple Leafs.

The Maple Leafs dropped a 5-2 decision to the Swedish Olympic team Detroit Red Wings tonight. While firm judgement should never be made based on preseason, many of the goals tonight were a testament to the skill that the Red Wings possess and a poor effort from the Leafs. It will be great to renew one of Toronto’s oldest rivalries this season against one of the league’s oldest set of players.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Dave Morrison yesterday on behalf of MLHS.  The Director of Amateur Scouting for the Leafs, Morrison is an intelligent hockey mind that provides direct insight and analysis on the prospects and general state of affairs in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization.  We covered topics including recent draft picks, organizational depth, up and coming prospects and Nazem Kadri.  

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It’s days like these where you miss Brian Burke. The straight-shooting, loyalist ex-GM of the Leafs had his faults (eg. being too loyal), but impatience was never one of them. The buyout of Mikhail Grabovski, one year into a recently signed contract reeks of shortsightedness and impulsiveness on the part of Leafs management.

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer, right, spreads to make a save on a shot by Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron (37) during the second period in Game 5 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series, in Boston on Friday, May 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

These Leafs will not go quietly. After another hard fought, fast-paced game with excellent goaltending, Toronto eked out a 2-1 win that has forced a seventh game tomorrow night back in Boston.  With standout performances from Reimer, Gardiner, et al., the Maple Leafs secured their first win on home ice of this postseason.  Hopefully, it won’t be their last.

With their backs against the wall, the Maple Leafs will look to force a seventh game by winning at home for the first time this postseason.

Toronto will undoubtedly play with the desperation they showed for most of Friday night. The difference tonight will be that the Bruins are also starting to feel the pressure.  Boston will be throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the Leafs and James Reimer in an effort to close out this series.  With the continuing struggles of Seguin and Marchand, the offensive load will likely be carried by the Krejci line.

At the other end of the ice, two feisty Leafs centers in Mikhail Grabovski and Nazem Kadri earnestly want to make a contribution of their own to their team’s success.  With the way Grabovski has elevated his game in these playoffs, it should only be a matter of time before the Belorussian finds his name on the scoresheet.

Toronto put up a valiant effort in their first home playoff game in far too long. Despite finally outshooting their opponents, the Maple Leafs paid the price for a handful of individual, but egregious errors. The Bruins regained their home ice advantage with the victory, but the Leafs sustained offensive pressure and created numerous chances with nearly fifty shots on the night.  In short – tonight’s tilt was reminiscent in many ways of the positives from game two, with a scattering of costly turnovers that were the trademark of game one.